Blue Blazes

Length: Two reels
Release date: August 21, 1936
An Educational Pictures Production
Presented by: E.W. Hammons
Distributed by: 20th Century-Fox
Producer: E. H. Allen
Director: Raymond Kane
Story: David Freedman
Photography: George Webber

Buster Keaton: Elmer
Arthur Jarrett: Fire Chief
With: Rose Kessner, Patty Wilson, and Marlyn Stuart

Elmer is a down-on-his-luck fireman in the city. The chief suspects him of deliberately trying to avoid assignments (a.k.a. he keeps falling into a lake, or a manhole, etc. right before they get to the fire), and he tries to “make good” at a country station as a relief man, or he’ll be off the force. This job doesn’t go so well either. In the first alarm, he gets off the truck too early. He stops at a woman’s house to find directions back to the fire station, but she’s the chief’s wife, and when the chief finds out what Elmer wants, he says to kick them off the force.

Meanwhile, the chief’s daughters are trying to go out on a date with two other firemen, so they light up a few scraps of paper in a flower pot to make smoke, and pretend that their house is on fire. Since every other fireman is out fighting the real fire, Elmer is the only one who answers the call, using a makeshift fire engine – his bicycle with a horn and a long ladder. Newspaper photographers take pictures of the “one-man fire department” as he helps get the girls down via a piece of fence. Elmer gets the girls down, but the chief’s wife panics over the smoke and winds up tipping the pot over, starting a real fire. Elmer saves her as the chief comes back. His actions are celebrated in the papers and he’s awarded a medal, but he falls out the window and into an awning just as the photographers take the picture. — Nick Ciccone